Why driving them out of temple?
Jack came back from a camping trip with his high school class. This time his father saw some sadness on his face. So he asked if everything went ok. He replied: “Yeah, but…”
“But what?” asked his father.
“I was defeated by my friends?”
“What do you mean by ‘defeated’?”
“They challenged me to explain the Bible. But I could not. I was so embarrassed.”
“Well, why embarrassed? It was another opportunity for you to learn, my son.”
“But daddy, they criticized me of my ignorance of the Bible.”
“Well, I don’t know many things either. I also have to learn, son.”
“Ok daddy, you know me, I’m not upset easily. But what bothers a lot is that their criticism was not about me alone but about the state of our Church.”
“Oh, really? How so?
“Look daddy, they said many young Catholics are ignorant because they stop learning about the faith after Confirmation as if it were their graduation from the faith. I argued with them that we still went to Church every Sunday, even when it snowed, to listen to our pastor’s preaching.”
“Yes, son, that’s what we do.”
“Well, daddy, they laughed at me for such a naïve way of seeing things. One of the leaders said that what I learned before Confirmation was just baby stuff. With that knowledge, I would not be solid in faith and would not be able to deal with many complicated questions in life. Is it true, daddy?”
“Ok son, it seems that they made a valid point there. Hmm…” His father sighed.
“Daddy, you know what, just last night, we were discussing the passage from the Gospel according to John, chapter 2: 13-25, where Jesus drove the animal traders and money changers out of the Temple area. The leader of our group had just returned from the Holy Land after a pilgrimage. She said what we read in this passage described a normal way of living at that time. Everyone enjoyed it, especially Jewish pilgrims. Annually, during the Passover, many came to Jerusalem for the feast and offered their sacrifices. It was convenient to have such traders there because the pilgrims would not have to carry their animals all the way from their home. The money changers also made it easier for them to have the right currency for their stay in Jerusalem. Why would Jesus drive out these business people? Our leader asked me to share my thought. I was not confident at all, dad.”
“What did you share, my son?” asked his father.
“Well, I said: Jesus drove them out perhaps because they were too noisy for people to pray. But they all laughed at me. I was like: why laughing?”
Jack looked at his father and he was also laughing.
“You’re also laughing, dad. Why so funny?”
“Oops, sorry. But what else did you say to them?”
“Nothing. I was so frustrated and kept silent. Then I had a thought, but as soon as I had that thought in my mind someone else opened his mouth and spoke very well about it. I lost my chance!”
“Jack, what was your thought?”
“I thought maybe because there was something wrong in the way people did their business.”
“You mean injustice?”
“Yes, exactly. That’s what I mean. Perhaps Jesus knew they were charging the poor pilgrims too much.”
His father nodded his head, saying: “I agree with you. Jesus did not focus on the established custom or the animals used for sacrifices but on the unjust activity of selling. Exploitation cannot be accepted in such a sacred place for prayer. Good job, son. But do you think there is some deeper reason for the action of Jesus?”
Jack was thinking intensely. But eventually he shook his head. His father smiled and said:
“Do you remember how Jesus called the Temple?”
“Hmm… he called it… my Father’s house, right?”
“Exactly. When we first read the passage, we might have the negative impression that Jesus was against the temple’s economic or religious activity, or the temple institution in itself. But if we read more deeply, we will see that Jesus was making a positive statement, meaning, when he claimed the temple to be HIS Father’s house, he was revealing his identity as God’s Son; and being God’s Son, he also shared the ownership of the place. He had the authority over the Temple.”
“How did you know all this dad?”
His father smiled, saying: “I studied. But my son, knowing all this knowledge is only the first half of the faith. The other half must be the application of God’s Word to our practical life. How do you think?”
“Well, I think there is at least one application here: I remember St. Paul says we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Why don’t we ask Jesus to purify the temple of our soul, right daddy?”
“You’re excellent, son. I’m proud of you!” His father raised his thumbs up.
Jack’s birthday is approaching. Last week, his father ordered a meaningful gift for him: a Bible and a commentary. He hopes they will be beneficial to his beloved son.
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.